A new strategy may provide the citrus industry with the means to more effectively prevent the spread of the devastating Citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing (HLB), according to Science Daily.
The publication describes development as being huge for the citrus industry. Citrus greening has already devastated the Florida citrus industry and poses a threat to California and Texas as well as Australia and the Mediterranean region, it reports.
Infected trees produce bitter fruits that are green, misshapen, and unsuitable for sale. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure and it typically dies within a few years.
To best curtail spreading, Professor Nian Wang and Dr. Sheo Shanker Pandey, both from Citrus Research and Education Center, at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences of the University of Florida, developed a technique to make an early diagnosis of the disease.
To achieve this, they used a low-cost staining method. With this technique, they identified insect feeding sites on citrus trees. They then tested these sites for the agent that causes the disease - (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus).
This way, the pair was able to detect the HLB causal agent up to two days after transmission.
This early detection took place long before the appearance of symptoms, reports the publication.
As such, it will enable citrus growers to more effectively prevent the spread of HLB in their fields.
Traditional HLB prevention methods
Currently the most effective way to prevent the spread of HLB is to stop the causal agent using quarantine measures.
These measures include controlling the insect that spreads the disease (Asian citrus psyllid), removing diseased trees, and planting HLB-free trees.
To this end, early diagnosis of HLB-diseased trees is crucial.
Traditionally, diagnosis relies on observing blotchy mottle symptoms and confirming disease presence using molecular tools.
However, these symptoms do not show until months after disease transmission.
By then the disease has had time to easily spread throughout the grove.